US Release Date: 11-08-1940
Directed by: Rouben Mamoulian
- Tyrone Power, as
- Don Diego de Vega/Zorro
- Linda Darnell, as
- Lolita Quintero
- Basil Rathbone, as
- Captain Esteban Pasquale
- Gale Sondergaard, as
- Inez Quintero
- Eugene Pallette, as
- Fray Felipe
- J. Edward Bromberg, as
- Don Luis Quintero
- George Regas, as
- Sergeant Gonzales
- Montagu Love, as
- Don Alejandro Vega
- Janet Beecher, as
- Senora Isabella Vega
- Chris-Pin Martin, as
- Robert Lowery as
Tyrone Power and Basil Rathbone in The Mark of Zorro.
After the success Warner Bros. had with The Adventures of Robin Hood two years earlier, 20th Century Fox tried its hand at a different classic adventure character. The 1940 version of The Mark of Zorro is a great remake and is comparably enjoyable to The Adventures of Robin Hood. If only it had been like wise filmed in color, it would have survived better as a classic.
Tyrone Power does a great Zorro. His dashing dark looks enable him to play Diego Vega convincingly as an upper class Spaniard going to school in Spain. Upon his arrival home in southern California, he learns that his father is no longer the Alcalde (leader of the community), and that the people are all being oppressed by the new Alcalde.
In what causes some very humorous scenes, Diego pretends to be gay so as to throw off anyone thinking that he is Zorro. Okay, they never use the word "gay", but in one scene he so fairies it up that Eugene Pallett looks at Power and says he has turned "into a puppy." You get the drift very easily.
Diego disguises himself as Zorro and goes about robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, all while doing battle with the new Alcalde's soldiers. He evens find time to romance the Alcalde's niece, Linda Darnell.
This movie is fast actioned and filled with fighting. But let's face it, it is practically a remake of Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood. The plots are amazingly similar. Basil Rathbone and Eugene Pallett play the exact same roles except they try for Spanish accents instead of English. The big difference between the two movies, and it is what separates them, are the charms and talents of the two leads.
Flynn plays Robin Hood as a happy go lucky outlaw who only gets serious when he absolutely has to. Tyrone Power plays Zorro as a straight out action hero, but shines when playing Diego. Early in the movie it is made clear that Diego is a lady-killer. Thus we realize that when he acts gay, it is in fact acting. In one scene, Rathbone looks on in disgust as Diego and the Alcalde's wife are discussing fragrances and clothing materials. It is these scenes that separate the two performances.
The two films are so much the same, yet different. The Mark of Zorro is a great film in its own right. Tyrone Power could be called the American Errol Flynn, but that would belittle his performance. Sure the studio was following a formula with this movie, but thanks to Power's charm and acting, it stands by itself. And just in case anyone is wondering, my son's like this movie just as much as The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Tyrone Power in The Mark of Zorro.
As Eric said, this is a remake of the silent Douglas Fairbanks' movie from 20 years earlier, as well as being a swashbuckler similar in its storyline (and casting) to The Adventures of Robin Hood. This Mark of Zorro is a rousing adventure tale but I still prefer the original. I also agree with Eric that this movie would have benefited from Technicolor.
Douglas Fairbanks's Don Diego was effeminate but Tyrone Power takes it to another level – and he also fills out those tight pants better than Fairbanks did. As Eric mentioned, there are several sly references that are filled with innuendo about Diego's sexuality. Here are some examples...
The treacherous Alcalde says to Don Diego, “My dear Esteban is forever thrusting at this and at that. He used to be a fencing instructor in Barcelona.” Comes the simpering reply, “How exhausting.” Later Don Diego makes this loaded statement, “How could I refuse a man anything with a naked sword in his hand?” When he arrives late for dinner Don Diego explains, “They heated the water for my bath too early. It was positively tepid! By the time more was carried and properly scented... Life can be trying, don't you think?” Captain Esteban then remarks knowingly to Inez, “His bath was tepid? Poor Lolita! I'm afraid her married life will be the same!” Tyrone Power's obvious charade is never demeaning though, it is played strictly for laughs and contrasts nicely with his overt masculinity as Zorro (which means Fox in Spanish).
The one scene that surpasses anything in either the original version or Errol Flynn's Robin Hood is the climactic sword fight between Power and Rathbone. Basil Rathbone was a superb classical fencer and he was later quoted as saying (in answer to a question about how his two famous costars measured up in the swordplay department), “He (Power) could fence Errol Flynn into a cocked hat.” They fight in one room where they are forced to interact rather than chase each other about. At any rate it is an excitingly staged and shot finale and the highlight of the movie.
Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell were both charismatic and extremely photogenic. They share several romantic moments where the director makes good use of close-ups of his two very pretty stars. This 1940 The Mark of Zorro is the definitive sound version, although I will always prefer the original with Douglas Fairbanks, the world's first action star.
Photos © Copyright 20th Century Fox (1940)